Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in a fight on a stormy night in Praetoria
We feature an extract from an underground Buiteboer book entitled – 27 Hours in Sartrean Hell.
Two extracts will be shared. This, Part 1, features the story of Geoff, fresh from a nightmarish river rafting journey innocently listening to jazz on a stormy Saturday night in Praetoria.
His Zen gets interrupted rudely by an intruding, violent Col Kurtz that drag a dead mermaid in through the door for dramatic effect…
Part/Extract 2 will feature a never before seen scene where Geoff reads a letter on Arthur Rimbaud, and the art of saying good-bye to Kurtz.
17. Parting shots
The rest is history. The yellow AA truck relieves itself of its broken burden in a Praetorian suburb. Geoff’s date for the weekend rushes away from the scene of the crime barely attempting to greet him. She plucks her backpack from the boot, and with a posture of someone pushing with right arm and shoulder forward to enter a crowded train car, she lifts a hand in a subdued wave.
A week after his return from the Sartrean netherworld of a river rafting excursion, he sits at an open window listening to the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Saturday night and the smell of fresh rain wash over the capital city. Somewhere the Telkom tower displays a hazy blue against the wash of cloud. Waves of water come like immeasurable offbeats of time hurled forth in a brassy chaos punctuated by the thump of fingers on piano keys. Like jazz, life has a way of producing its own causes and effects, things that work out and others that wither away like a kite cut loose into the sweltering blue eye of desert.
Breathless breezes uncork logic and reason to give weary-foot soldiers a break from the duty of policing the outer rim of the mental regimes. It takes time to see patterns in thought, to intuit the movements of people and the intentions of an adversary. In one of the seven classics of ancient Chinese military thought, it is stated that victory comes to the general who studies and ultimately knows his adversary better than soil knows the embrace of water.
Nothing could have warned Geoff of the bizarre extensions of strangenesses that could pop from the woodwork on a river-rafting excursion. The Brubeck CD runs to its logical conclusion. Terminus.
Tunes to a late-night radio station. Empty frequencies wave in through speaker as rain continues to fall. Loud pummelled tin roof and siren hacks away at eardrums as sound pass down vertical embankments of a rain-drenched street.
The pain and weariness in Geoff’s being mingles well with the sharpness of his senses as thunderous claps of electricity whack into the ground at breakneck speeds. The quintessential factor that determines survival in the twenty-first century is speed. Much like in the twentieth century when planes, tanks, and other weapons were hurled around in the breakneck arms race to find ever more sophisticated ways of exterminating enemies.
A hardness comes into the air. Eskom’s life- or light-giving sparks disappear and the world is left in darkness. Thunder smacks somewhere close by. A whiff of electric current in the air passes over Geoff’s forearms. Hairs stand on end, sparked into an upright position by something extraterrestrial, or at best, otherworldly. The electricity is gone. Computers come to a grinding halt. Radio 2000 is cut loose from antenna and transistors thus to be abandoned to its own devices on the scrambled frequencies of this night.
The balcony door is open. The only light in all of the universe is to be found when other slaps of lightning connect with the upturned cheek of the earth. Saturn, the old spirit of Saturn, attacks the earth with life-extinguishing rays to smash life back into the cave from whence it crawls.
A hiss in palm tree announce more than just wind and rain washing in. Portends misery for those late-night celebratory braais that become, due to this massive storm, a memory of doused flames. And to top it off, and to make moods even badder, some ball-worshipping band of merry men lost a match somewhere in TV land.
As the storm rages, Geoff witnesses something. Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, of Apocalypse Now fame’s face, pressed against dirty wet window. Curtain reflects its shadowy and by now wet movement against chaos of heavens as it is pushed inside, then outside, by wave upon wave of watery wind.
A salty smell enters as Kurtz bursts through the door. Behind him he drags a human-size carcass, which looks suspiciously much like. Geoff, gasps for air, shouts, ‘The mermaid, you killed the mermaid!’ Before he could do anything Kurtz proceeds to kick Geoff in the bad knee. Sends him rolling from chair into obscure darkness. Sweltering pain runs up and down overworked neural pathways.
Kurtz’s body tumbles down on him like a sack of rotten potatoes. Geoff recognizes green camouflage, the smell of a brown river, and soiled dreams. The next wave of Saturnian destruction outside the windows shows a set of eyeballs slightly upturned as if to expose the white nothingness that hide beneath the iris hanging just above Geoff’s own. ‘Read me,’ a frighteningly long pause intercepts any thought of idle conversation, ‘the Rimbaud letter!’
Chaos has suddenly erupted in his office. Geoff refuses blindly, ‘No way’ are the only two words he can utter before Kurtz punches at him with a swollen hand. Geoff wrestles free from a life-extinguishing grip; gets up from the floor to land a massive sideswipe kick on Kurtz’s neck; ‘Didn’t you die in Apocalypse Now? Isn’t it enough to have had to deal with you out there on the netherzone of the Vaal River, out there on a row boat only to be haunted by Jean-Paul Sartre prancing about in interpersonal relations like an unwelcome fart on a hard church bench?’
Geoff shouts as his elbow embosses itself somewhere in what he hopes to be Col. Kurtz’ ribcage; no weapons except odds and ends such as chairs, bent metal legs of broken desks, and a file cabinet are used in a stage of subterranean mortal combat. Geoff grabs a glass brick from the floor and with razor sharp eyes, at the moment when the next wave of lightning announces itself, hurls it at Kurtz. Somewhere in the dark something dies with a crash; a thud announces Kurtz’s shoulder connecting with Geoff’s stomach; two bodies tumble through the open balcony door; a primal scene of man struggling with the appearance of a man ensues; a primordial image of interpersonal destruction carried out between a fiction and a real man who knows how flimsy the security perimeter between the real and the un- or surreal is, is thus caught, for quivering moments, in the hellish light of lightning.
Geoff knees Kurtz in the nuts; Kurtz pokes two fingers into Geoff’s left eye; a singing noise appears in his right ear. The ancients believe that the sun emits a strange singing sound with which it drove Saturn away, banished it to the outer regions of darkness from whence it could not destroy life any longer.
Geoff hits at Kurtz, misses, smashes his hand into brick wall. Blood surfaces as a wound spreads itself through broken skin. A French philosopher once contended that a wound precedes the knife that splits the flesh.
A chill rises as the blinding rain blocks storm water drains and roads are overrun by liquid tumultuousness. Anger in the air like demons hurtling themselves through portholes into this reality policed by an avalanche of corrupt ‘angelic’ agents. The scene of the crime becomes a series of stills where Kurtz’s head is smashed into the metallic railing. By now Geoff had smashed a window, and is forcing Kurtz’s exposed neck towards the remaining shards of glass stuck like a sombre jigsaw puzzle in the window putty. The muscles on Geoff’s not so insubstantial upper arms bulge.
Blood washes over balcony edge to the small garden below. Kurtz straightens up with a groan and in this movement Geoff uses his best Tai Chi instincts to heave Kurtz’s slimy body over the railing by using the force of his own momentum. Kurtz crashes through the lower roof to land on the stoep below with the neck twisted at an odd angle. Legs are moving.
Fights between men, and spirits or emanations from intermediate realms of the magus and imagination, are evil affairs. Spirits or apparitions forthcoming from the zone of imagination sometimes happen to slip through cracks in space-time to alight in this reality.
Before trekking down the steps Geoff stops at the toilet to take long overdue leak as ears note faint moaning noises from down below somewhere. Scratches against bathroom window raise goosebumps and neck hairs. Zip up.
Life has always left Geoff alone, especially on Saturday nights. Only, this one is different, very different. Fishes a flashlight from somewhere. Eskom is still dead in the wires. From an ammunition chest, he fishes a red file. Inside the file’s general redness a wad of paper hides. On the uppermost, and by now slightly yellowing page, a title is imprinted in black. Letters, commas, exclamation marks surround his movements. Down the staircase with stiff knee and aching remnants of sunburn from river rafting in Sartrean netherzones he goes.
Downstairs: find nothing out of the ordinary. Out front door eyes see Kurtz survived the fall. The bulk of his body leans against the trunk of palm tree. The war to liberate the city of imagination has finally erupted onto these shores. The veil torn, the appearance of things forever changed.
‘River rafting is not for sissies,’ Kurtz intones, suddenly right next to Geoff. Darkness rolls in as the flashlight extinguishes itself with a pathetic yelp. Lightning, more lightning shows Kurtz on the garden wall, then on the roof of the garage. Geoff walks inside to find Kurtz sitting at the dark dining room table. Kurtz’ deeply slow voice intrude on silence, ‘I’ve got you surrounded.’
A candle burns low. The red file lies there. Kurtz gestures Geoff towards a seat. ‘It is time, you know,’ Kurtz motions with distant words. Geoff stares into the night. Breathing comes at him from across the oily surface of the table.
Geoff opens the red file. Hands move. Wind dies down. Geoff will soon read from a concept letter he wrote which was on its part inspired by another letter written by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
This letter, never sent to any recipient other than an imaginary correspondent in another country, imposes itself on Geoff’s memory. He scavenges it from the red file. Kurtz withdraws into the shadows between books lining shelves stranded along a horizontal wall. The letter dates from the year 2002, written during a mission he carried out with Giovanni Nero, an anti-hero from realms where the war to liberate the city of imagination is raging.
Part // Extract 2 – Geoff reads Rimbaud to Col. Kurtz, to follow… soon-ish.